Gossip is certainly one of the things that language is useful for, because it's always handy to know who needs a favor, who can offer a favor, who's available, who's under the protection of a jealous spouse. And being the first to get a piece of gossip is like engaging in insider trading: You can capitalize on an opportunity before anyone else can.
As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.
The real, then, is that which, sooner or later, information and reasoning would finally result in, and which is therefore independent of the vagaries of me and you. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase of knowledge.
Interesting phenomena occur when two or more rhythmic patterns are combined, and these phenomena illustrate very aptly the enrichment of information that occurs when one description is combined with another.
Any curriculum will be pedagogically ineffective if it consists of a lecturer yammering in front of a blackboard, or a textbook that students highlight with a yellow marker. People understand concepts only when they are forced to think them through, to discuss them with others, and to use them to solve problems.
It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings.
We commonly speak as though a single 'thing' could 'have' some characteristic. A stone, we say, is 'hard,' 'small,' 'heavy,' 'yellow,' 'dense,' etc. That is how our language is made: 'The stone is hard.' And so on. And that way of talking is good enough for the marketplace: 'That is a new brand.' 'The potatoes are rotten.' 'The container is damaged.'... And so on. But this way of talking is not good enough in science or epistemology. To think straight, it is advisable to expect all qualities and attributes, adjectives, and so on to refer to at least -two- sets of interactions in time....Language continually asserts by the syntax of subject and predicate that 'things' somehow 'have' qualities and attributes. A more precise way of talking would insist that the 'things' are produced, are seen as separate from other 'things,' and are made 'real' by their internal relations and by their behaviour in relationship with other things and with the speaker. It is necessary to be quite clear about the universal truth that whatever 'things' may be in their pleromatic and thingish world, they can only enter the world of communication and meaning by their names, their qualities and their attributes (i. e., by reports of their internal and external relations and interactions).
I don't know where my expertise is; my expertise is no disciplines. I would recommend to drop disciplinarity wherever one can. Disciplines are an outgrowth of academia. In academia you appoint somebody and then in order to give him a name he must be a historian, a physicist, a chemist, a biologist, a biophysicist; he has to have a name. Here is a human being: Joe Smith -- he suddenly has a label around the neck: biophysicist. Now he has to live up to that label and push away everything that is not biophysics; otherwise people will doubt that he is a biophysicist. If he's talking to somebody about astronomy, they will say "I don't know, you are not talking about your area of competence, you're talking about astronomy, and there is the department of astronomy, those are the people over there," and things of that sort. Disciplines are an aftereffect of the institutional situation.
I do look for openings where I can overturn popular misconceptions, but unlike Christopher Hitchens, I am neither a contrarian nor a lone heretic. I like to have a significant number of academics watching my back.
Academics lack perspective. In a debate on whether the world is round, they would argue, 'No,' because it's an oblate spheroid. They suffer from 'the curse of knowledge': the inability to imagine what it's like not to know something that they know.
It is important to understand what I mean by semiosis. All dynamic action, or action of brute force, physical or psychical, either takes place between two subjects, whether they react equally upon each other, or one is agent and the other patient, entirely or partially, or at any rate is a resultant of such actions between pairs. But by "semiosis" I mean, on the contrary, an action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs.
It has often been argued that absolute scepticism is self-contradictory; but this is a mistake: and even if it were not so, it would be no argument against the absolute sceptic, inasmuch as he does not admit that no contradictory propositions are true. Indeed, it would be impossible to move such a man, for his scepticism consists in considering every argument and never deciding upon its validity; he would, therefore, act in this way in reference to the arguments brought against him.
To suppose universal laws of nature capable of being apprehended by the mind and yet having no reason for their special forms, but standing inexplicable and irrational, is hardly a justifiable position. Uniformities are precisely the sort of facts that need to be accounted for. Law is par excellence the thing that wants a reason. Now the only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature, and for uniformity in general, is to suppose them results of evolution.
The thinkers of the Enlightenment sought a new understanding of the human condition. The era was a cornucopia of ideas, some of them contradictory, but four themes tie them together: reason, science, humanism, and progress.
No general description of the mode of advance of human knowledge can be just which leaves out of account the social aspect of knowledge. That is of its very essence. What a thing society is! The workingman, with his trade union, knows that. Men and women moving in polite society understand it, still better. But Bohemians, like me, whose work is done in solitude, are apt to forget that not only is a man as a whole little better than a brute in solitude, but also that everything that bears any important meaning to him must receive its interpretation from social considerations.
The a priori method is distinguished for its comfortable conclusions. It is the nature of the process to adopt whatever belief we are inclined to, and there are certain flatteries to the vanity of man which we all believe by nature, until we are awakened from our pleasing dream by rough facts.
It is as if the stuff of which we are made were totally transparent and therefore imperceptible and as if the only appearances of which we can be aware are cracks and planes of fracture in that transparent matrix. Dreams and percepts and stories are perhaps cracks and irregularities in the uniform and timeless matrix. Was this what Plotinus meant by an 'invisible and unchanging beauty which pervades all things"?
If you can approach the world's complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things.
The only profitable conversations are with enthusiasts who have ceased being so, with the ex-naïve. Calmed down at last, they have taken, willy-nilly, the decisive step toward knowledge, that impersonal version of disappointment.